Archives For IBSA Annual Meeting

Our family photo

Lisa Misner —  November 29, 2018

By Meredith Flynn

New churches

We call it the most chaotic three minutes of the year. It’s the part of the IBSA Annual Meeting when churches that are affiliating with IBSA come down front to receive their certificates and take a photo together. We documented it in this space a couple of years ago, celebrating the warmth of the moment and the fun of meeting new IBSA family members, and bemoaning the fact that it is never a very good photo.

This year was no different. But we had heard it might be. Of the 11 churches joining IBSA at this year’s Annual Meeting, only about half were able to send representatives to Maryville. This will be a small group, we thought. We’ll fit on a single row.

But when the first church was called, the back few rows of the left side of the sanctuary emptied and Collinsville Community Church made their way down the aisle. Usually, only a pastor or a couple of church leaders come down front. But church planter David Seaton brought many members of his young congregation with him to Maryville.

As they kept coming, and were joined by representatives from other churches, I could almost hear the wheels turning as those of us on IBSA’s Church Communication Team considered how to get dozens of people into an artful arrangement across the front of the sanctuary. The photo you see here is the result of our stewing.

Like that picture from two years ago, it’s a bit chaotic. It will win no awards. But the subject matter is perfect. The churches in this photo represent different brands of the “pioneering spirit” that was focus of the Annual Meeting. Some, like Collinsville Community Church, are relatively new churches driving hard at the work of transforming their towns and cities with the gospel. They’re reaching people that didn’t have any interest in church before.

And some, like First Baptist in Orion, have established a longstanding, faithful presence in their communities. FBC Orion just celebrated its 175th anniversary. The congregation and others like it show their pioneering spirit when they seek out new ways to partner with other churches, so that the gospel might advance across Illinois.

What unites the churches is this shared testimony: Partnership for the sake of the gospel is valuable, and worth scooting over to make room for each other. Facing the challenge of Illinois’ challenging mission field is easier when we do it together.

Living history

Lisa Misner —  November 26, 2018

‘Be sure you put your feet in the right place, then stand firm.’

– Wisdom from the 16th President, delivered at the Annual Meeting

By Illinois Baptist Team coverage

Lincoln on platform

Fritz Klein, Abraham Lincoln interpreter

Jesse Webster’s church has a big dream. Webster, the young, bivocational pastor of Sugar Camp Baptist Church near Mt. Vernon, wants to purchase a large church facility in a different part of town and relocate his congregation to the new neighborhood. His church is on board and ready for the massive shift in direction. They sense God leading them this way.

“God began to burden our hearts for a people he wanted us to reach,” Webster said at the IBSA Annual Meeting Nov. 8. He once thought their historic building was the one thing his church wouldn’t be willing to give up. But, Webster said, “Where we were was hindering us from following God.”

The pioneering spirit of Sugar Camp and more than 200 other IBSA churches was on display at the Annual Meeting, held this year at First Baptist Church in Maryville. Webster joined IBSA Executive Director Nate Adams for a Wednesday evening service dedicated to the steps churches must take in order to reach our Illinois mission field with the gospel.

The vast spiritual need in Illinois, where at least 8 million people do not know Christ, was communicated most poignantly by the words of the state’s most famous pioneer. Delivered by renowned interpreter Fritz Klein, the wisdom of Abraham Lincoln echoed with new resonance in 2018, the year of Illinois’ bicentennial celebration.

“We are now surrounded by critical circumstances, well fitted to test our national faith. Indeed, to test our own individual virtue,” Klein said as Lincoln. In a presentation drawn almost entirely from Lincoln’s writing and speeches,

Klein brought to life the words of a President who cited Scripture and talked about faith more often than he is credited for today.

A century and a half after they were first spoken, Lincoln’s words imbued the meeting with a sense of urgency. “We’re going through a trial, and this fiery trial through which we pass will light us down, either in honor or dishonor, to the latest generation,” he said. “We shall nobly save, or meanly lose, this last best hope on earth.

“We cannot escape history.”

It’s that urgency that has compelled churches in Illinois to embrace a pioneering spirit, which doesn’t always guarantee success, but meets critical circumstances with determination, creativity, and faithfulness to the task.

“I don’t know if it will work,” Adams said of Sugar Camp’s plans. “But that’s what makes it pioneering spirit.”

Adjustments worth making
At the center of the Annual Meeting were four “Pioneering Spirit” challenges churches have embraced over the past year. At the 2017 gathering of Illinois Baptists, IBSA set a goal for at least 200 churches to embrace one or more of the challenges. At the final tally, 220 churches committed to go new places, engage new people, make new sacrifices, or develop new leaders.

When a church pursues that kind of spirit, they often have to make adjustments, said Tom Hufty, pastor of FBC Maryville. Preaching the annual sermon to close the meeting Nov. 8, Hufty used an acrostic to highlight the steps needed to make those adjustments:

A: Check your attitude
D: Make wise decisions
J: Jesus is at the center of our adjustments
U: Understand your enemy is a spiritual one, not flesh and blood
S: Submit to God regardless of your preferences
T: Trust the Lord

Hufty used Philippians 2:5-11 as a backdrop for his message, calling his listeners to the attitude Christ showed when he humbled himself for the sake of his mission. Some adjustments we look forward to, Hufty said. Others, not so much. But when the prize is valuable, the adjustments required are worth making.

“We have someone to value,” he said. “His name is Jesus. He’s in the middle of all our adjustments.”

As churches seek to advance the gospel, there will be growing pains, Adron Robinson preached in his president’s message Wednesday afternoon. The IBSA president and pastor of Hillcrest Baptist Church in Country Club Hills described the early church’s struggle with division—“growing pains,” he called them.

Acts 15 finds the early church in the middle of a major dispute. Some leaders were teaching that the Old Testament law of circumcision was required for salvation. The line they drew separated Jews from Gentiles, and diluted the new covenant established by Christ’s death the cross. The leaders were feeling superior because they had been chosen by God. They were the gatekeepers.

These “growing pains” in the early church had to be resolved because of the urgent need to get the gospel to more people, Robinson preached. Growing pains in churches today often result in racism, in division, in one group believing they’re superior over another. Our modern-day growing pains need resolution too, for the sake of the gospel.

“Salvation has never been about race, but it’s always been about grace,” he said. All believers in Jesus Christ have received the same grace—that’s why we should receive one another.

“It is amazing grace that saved wretches like us. It is amazing grace that God allows each of us to participate in the Great Commission to reach the world with the gospel,” Robinson said. “Let us grow in grace, so that we can endure the growing pains and preach his great gospel.”

Celebrating together
In his report to messengers at the meeting, Adams shared six highlights of the past year, beginning with a new enthusiasm for baptisms. Through the One GRAND Sunday emphasis last April, IBSA churches baptized 671 people. Youth Encounter, IBSA’s annual evangelism conference for students, saw a 32% increase in attendance over last year, Adams said, and 62 people received Christ at the event’s first four locations.

Through leadership development processes, IBSA has trained almost 7,000 leaders representing 500-plus churches. And in the area of Cooperative Program giving, Adams reported, Illinois has been sending more than 40% of CP gifts to the national SBC for decades. The current ratio is 56.5% for missions and ministry in Illinois, and 43.5% to the national SBC, ranking Illinois the 12th highest among 42 state conventions.

Adams and IBSA also recognized several individuals who have achieved ministry milestones:
• Becky Gardner, who, as chairperson of Southeastern Seminary’s trustees, is the first female chair of a seminary board;
• Phil Miglioratti, recently retired after 18 years as IBSA’s prayer ministries consultant;
• Dale Burzynski, who is celebrating 50 years as pastor of Ina Missionary Baptist Church; and
• Sandy Barnard, who will retire in January after more than 33 years at IBSA, most recently as executive administrative assistant.

Illinois Baptist Children’s Home and Family Services is celebrating its centennial anniversary this year. To mark the milestone, Adams presented BCHFS Executive Director Denny Hydrick with a $10,000 check during the BCHFS report.

In other business, messengers to the Annual Meeting:
• Re-elected Robinson as president, along with his three fellow officers who served IBSA last year. Adam Cruse, pastor of Living Faith Baptist Church in Sherman, was elected to a second term as vice president. Robin Mayberry of First Baptist Church, Bluford, was re-elected to serve as recording secretary, and Sharon Carty of Emmanuel Baptist Church in Carlinville was re-elected as assistant recording secretary.
• Adopted a budget with a Cooperative Program goal of $6.2 million.
• Approved changes to the IBSA Constitution presented for a second reading at this year’s meeting, and heard a first reading of proposed changes that include adding a nepotism clause to the BCHFS and BFI bylaws, mirroring wording currently in the IBSA Constitution.
• Welcomed 11 new churches affiliating with IBSA: Collinsville Community Church; First Baptist Church, Orion; First New Bethlehem Baptist Church, Chicago; Garden of Peace, Chicago; Grace Church, Metropolis; Harvest Bible Chapel, DeKalb; Iglesia Bautista el Calvario, Elgin; Manito Baptist Church; New Zion Baptist Church, Rockford; Real Church, Chicago; and Redemption Hour Ministries, Romeoville.

The 2019 IBSA Annual Meeting is Nov. 6-7 at Cornerstone Church in Marion.

– Illinois Baptist Team coverage

Lincoln and HomeThe IBSA Pastors’ Conference and Annual Meeting are November 6-8 at First Baptist Church in Maryville. Here’s why you should come:

  1. Participate in democratic process. IBSA is your association. Vote on new board members, budgets, and resolutions (you can even submit one!). Elect association officers and learn how your denomination works.
  2. Be enriched. Hear IBSA President Adron Robinson preach the president’s message and Tom Hufty, senior pastor of FBC Maryville, bring the annual sermon. Be inspired by stories of churches who have embraced the Pioneering Spirit challenges and reports from ministry partners. Enjoy music by worship band Sixteen Cities, and a visit from Honest Abe himself, as portrayed by veteran Lincoln interpreter Fritz Klein. You’ll even have the opportunity to prayerwalk your way through the meeting and find new meaning in why you are there.
  3. Catch the Pioneering Spirit – 200 & Counting. As Illinois celebrates its bicentennial in 2018, we’re inspired by the fortitude of our forbearers, and we’re calling up a new generation of spiritual pioneers today. Find out how your church can join the challenge to 1) Go new places, 2) Engage new people, 3) Make new sacrifices, and 4) Develop new leaders.
  4. Invest in yourself and your church. Attend the Pastors’ Conference, listen to the speakers, and go the breakout sessions. Hear powerful messages from pastors and Bible teachers Darry Gaddy, Noah Oldham, and Matt Crain. Take notes to help you remember important points to bring back to your church and community for growing His Kingdom.
  5. Women’s Ministry. Ladies, you’re not left out. The Ministers’ Wives’ Conference and Luncheon is Wednesday morning and will feature powerful testimonies including a message from author and speaker Mary Mohler, wife of Southern Seminary President Albert Mohler. Come by the Women’s Ministry exhibit for all kinds of sweet treats and resources. Plus, the LifeWay Bookstore will be nearby.

Learn more about the IBSA Annual Meeting.

In the presence of a pioneer

Lisa Misner —  October 29, 2018

Pioneering-200-logo-layers-260x300By Nate Adams

Not long ago, I was invited by the Springfield Convention and Visitors Bureau to represent IBSA at a local event, recognizing organizations that have helped attract business to the Springfield area. IBSA was among that group because, in both 2015 and 2018, we hosted the Midwest Leadership Summit at the Springfield Crowne Plaza, drawing more than a thousand pastors and leaders from thirteen Midwest states to nearby hotels and restaurants.

The recognition event was held at the Abraham Lincoln Museum, and much to our delight, one of the presenters was Abraham Lincoln himself. As each of us were called to the platform, a Lincoln statuette was handed to us by a statuesque, flesh-and-blood Lincoln!

Of course, all of us know that our now beloved sixteenth President has been gone for more than 150 years. Our very convincing “Lincoln interpreter” was an actor named Fritz Klein, who looks remarkably like the historic Lincoln, and whose full-time profession is now portraying him in settings all over the United States.

May we be willing to go new places, engage new people, make new sacrifices, and develop new leaders.

Even so, as I was called to the platform, I found myself feeling a bit in awe of the towering figure who smiled and handed me my little statue. At his insistence, we each paused and posed for a quick photo. And for a brief moment, the warm smile and rehearsed mannerisms of Mr. Klein made me feel as if it were Mr. Lincoln who was pleased with me, and with IBSA.

Shortly after that event, I invited Mr. Klein to come and join us at our IBSA Annual Meeting this November. For one thing, it’s hard to imagine celebrating the Land of Lincoln bicentennial without some nod to Mr. Lincoln. But more importantly, I hope the image and memory of Abraham Lincoln will remind us that he was one of our state’s earliest pioneers, and that we need that pioneering spirit in our churches today.

Pioneers are willing to go new places, engage new people, make new sacrifices, and develop new leaders. Lincoln and his family personified these pioneering qualities, but so did dozens, and then hundreds, and eventually thousands of Baptists, who entered our fledgling state with both the Gospel and the desire to establish new churches.

In the early 1800’s, evangelism, church planting, missions giving, and leadership development were not easy. And they’re not easy in the early 2000’s. Even today, these kinds of missionary endeavors aren’t usually attempted or accomplished by complacent settlers, but by courageous pioneers.

By the time the IBSA Annual Meeting convenes in Maryville November 7-8, we hope to celebrate 200 years of statehood by also celebrating at least 200 Baptist churches who are embracing one or more of these “pioneering spirit” challenges. (Your church can register for these at www.pioneeringspirit.org.) A little more than 180 churches have embraced one or more of these challenges already, and we are hopeful that more than 200 will do so by the end of the IBSA Annual Meeting.

I don’t expect to have the kind of impact on Illinois or history that Mr. Lincoln did. But I do want to be the kind of pioneer that continues to bring both the Gospel and new Baptist churches to the places in Illinois that don’t have them yet. Welcoming new believers into heaven is so much more important than welcoming new business into Springfield. And of course the celebration event will be hosted by Someone so much more statuesque than Mr. Lincoln.

Nate Adams is executive director of the Illinois Baptist State Association. Respond at IllinoisBaptist@IBSA.org.

Happy Birthday, Illinois!

Lisa Misner —  October 15, 2018

By Meredith Flynn

On our state’s bicentennial, the resolve of its early settlers has new meaning for Baptists.

Settlers arriving in the Illinois territory in the early 1800s didn’t know what to make of what they found. History tells us many of them moved north from areas that were heavily wooded. They trusted land that could support so many trees. The Illinois prairie offered no such reassurance.

“The prairies posed a new set of problems for farmers,” writes historian Pamela Riney-Kehrberg. “Below the land’s surface were tough, fibrous roots of tall prairie grasses, extending downward a foot or more. A simple wooden plow could hardly penetrate the surface.”

The pioneers made do by settling mostly in the southern part of the state, where ready access to water and trees made constructing their homes and farms more feasible. Some, though, eventually headed north, and found a way to work the hard prairie soil. It was richer than they thought, historians say. They just needed different tools. Steel, instead of wood.

Industrial pioneers John Deere and Cyrus McCormick developed tools for farming the prairie lands. And Illinois boomed. Its statehood population in 1818 was 35,000. By 1830, it had grown to 157,000, and would triple over the next decade. Still, tending the land was expensive. Families sacrificed much, Riney-Kehrberg notes, to run even a modest farm.

Two hundred years later, the challenges of tilling the soil in Illinois are different. But they still exist, especially in spiritual terms. More than 8 million people in Illinois do not know Christ. Many churches are struggling against the cultural tide to see real transformation in their communities.

Blue map copy

“I have often said that even though Illinois is the second flattest state in America, being Baptist here is an uphill climb,” said IBSA Executive Director Nate Adams. “Baptists have always been somewhat counter-cultural and a minority in Illinois, but that used to be because larger groups of people from different religious cultures had settled the state.

“Now it’s because the culture overall has become less and less religious, and arguably more hardened to the gospel message.”

Like Illinois’ early settlers found years ago, sometimes hard soil calls for new tools. Last year, IBSA presented four challenges to renew “pioneering spirit” among Baptists in Illinois. (Read more about the challenges at pioneeringspirit.org.)

These “new tools” are actually tried-and-true church practices: evangelism, church planting, sacrificial giving, and raising up new generations of leaders.

“The widespread and growing lostness of our state compels us to think in new ways. Maybe old ways,” said Van Kicklighter, IBSA’s associate executive director for the Church Planting Team. “The pioneers of Illinois and parts west came to those territories knowing that if they didn’t bring the gospel with them, it just would not be present. We need that same kind of spirit and thinking today.”

‘Time to do something’
After the 2017 IBSA Annual Meeting, David Starr led his church to tackle all four of the Pioneering Spirit challenges. His congregation, Community Southern Baptist Church in Clay City, is employing these new tools to make a difference in Illinois, especially in places where there is no IBSA church.

Starr approached Joe Lawson, director of missions for Louisville Baptist Association, about starting an association-wide prayer emphasis for the 10 counties in Illinois without an IBSA church. Community Southern, which averages around 70 in worship attendance, was assigned Carroll County in northwest Illinois. They started praying. Then, they took action.

“There’s a time to pray, and there’s a time to do something,” Starr said. He spoke with IBSA staff in Springfield and leaders in northwest Illinois, planning a mission trip that would be focused on assessing needs in the region. In July, Starr and his wife and another couple from their church traveled more than 300 miles along a diagonal line from Clay City to Savanna, Ill.

During their trip, they met with a church planter in Galena for a Monday night Bible study. Then, they knocked on doors. Starr said the small team visited 70% of the homes in the focus area, and found 21 people or families who wanted to commit themselves to seeing a Southern Baptist church planted there.

“We watch God,” Starr said. “He’s done everything.”

The team also saw physical need in Carroll County. The region has lost jobs in two big industries—railroad and lumber. There’s poverty and hunger. A woman who the team encountered ran into them later at a local store. “Don’t forget us,” she said.

Starr’s team went back home to Clay City, but they’ve continued to pray. There’s a map on the church bulletin board showing the streets they visited, and printed prayer reminders for the congregation.

Along with the challenge to go new places with the gospel, Community Southern is keeping up with the other Pioneering Spirit commitments. They increased missions giving through the Cooperative Program, are working to enlist new leaders, and celebrated one baptism on One GRAND Sunday, a statewide baptism emphasis in April.

“Here is a pastor and church that captured the pioneering spirit,” Kicklighter said. “They heard about a place where there was a compelling need, and they decided to do something about it.

“We need lots of Illinois Baptist churches with this kind of passion and willingness—a pioneering spirit.”

Starr said he’s never seen anything like it in his years of ministry. His church is investing willingly in other people and places. Like Illinois’ early settlers, they’re tilling the hard soil, and using less familiar tools to do so.

“We watch God,” Starr said. “He’s done everything.”

– Meredith Flynn, with info from History.com and “The Historical Development of Agriculture in Illinois” by Pamela Riney-Kehrberg

Pioneering-200-logo-layers-260x300By Meredith Flynn

When Illinois Baptists gather Nov. 7-8, a familiar refrain will be in the air. No, not the state song, although “Illinois, Illinois” certainly fits the meeting’s theme. The 2018 IBSA Annual Meeting at First Baptist Church, Maryville, will observe our state’s bicentennial as part of a celebration of God’s work through Illinois Baptist churches across two centuries.

The meeting will also revisit the “Pioneering Spirit” emphasis, shedding light on how IBSA churches have over the past year embraced challenges to go new places, engage new people, make new sacrifices, and develop new leaders—all so more people in Illinois might hear and respond to the gospel.

First Baptist Church, Maryville, will host the 2018 Annual Meeting, preceded by the IBSA Pastors’ Conference Nov. 6-7.

Along with stories of churches who have embraced the Pioneering Spirit challenges, the Annual Meeting will feature reports from ministry partners, music by worship band Sixteen Cities, and a visit from Honest Abe himself, as portrayed by veteran Lincoln interpreter Fritz Klein.

IBSA President Adron Robinson will preach the president’s message during the Wednesday afternoon session, and Tom Hufty, senior pastor of FBC Maryville, will bring the annual sermon Thursday morning.

Annual Meeting and Pastors’ Conference information is available at IBSAannualmeeting.org, along with historical highlights, meeting logistics, and a checklist for messengers to the Annual Meeting.

The little cabin on the prairie that served as a mini-museum of Illinois history last year will return to the Annual Meeting as a house of prayer. The log cabin will feature visual displays about Illinois’ mission field, both historic and present-day.

From the cabin just inside the front entrance of the church building, messengers and guests can tour the facility using a printed guide. At stops along the way, they will be encouraged to pray for ministries in IBSA churches, based on the activities that will happen at those locations during the annual meeting. For example, pastors’ wives will meet in the FBC chapel, so that space becomes the spot to pray for pastors’ wives and families, at any time during the three-day gathering.

“We’re asking God to stir a movement of prayer for mission and ministry, to build up strong churches across our state,” said IBSA’s Eric Reed, one of the planners of the prayer tour.

“God can move our hearts to beat in rhythm with his, for the salvation of lost people in Illinois, and strengthen his disciples to represent Jesus here, where he is so desperately needed.”

Counting to 200
When the Pioneering Spirit challenges were presented last year, the goal was for at least 200 IBSA churches to accept one or more of them. To date, 184 churches have done so.

“We knew from the outset that not every IBSA church would register a commitment to the Pioneering Spirit challenges, as much as we wish they might, because these challenges require great intentionality,” said IBSA Executive Director Nate Adams.

“That’s why the goal is 200 churches, not just to match the Illinois bicentennial, but because that will be about 20% of all IBSA churches, and we think that’s about the percentage that will really want to work these challenges.”

Adams said IBSA has continued to invite churches to consider the challenges during local associational annual meetings this fall, and will do so again at the IBSA Annual Meeting in Maryville.

“I believe we will have more than 200 church commitments by the Annual Meeting, and we are eager to work with those churches, and to see them become an inspiration to many others to bear fruit in these important areas.”

Next stop: Maryville
Messengers and visitors to the IBSA Annual Meeting can reserve tickets for onsite evening meals Tuesday and Wednesday at IBSAannualmeeting.org. The Tuesday evening meal following the Pastors’ Conference afternoon sessions will be provided by Ravanelli’s Catering and feature their famous pressure fried chicken, slow roasted beef with gravy, baked rigatoni, mash potatoes and gravy, buttered corn, salad, bread, and
dessert. Tickets are $10 per person.

The Wednesday evening meal catered by Fire-N-Smoke will feature smoked chicken topped with cranberry barbecue sauce, pulled pork, macaroni and cheese, green beans, salad, bread, and dessert. Tickets are $12 per person.

Childcare will be provided by the Illinois Baptist Disaster Relief Childcare team. For more information or to reserve childcare, contact Barb Troeger at (217) 391-3123 or BarbTroeger@IBSA.org.

What really counts

Lisa Misner —  October 1, 2018

Pioneering-200-logo-layers-260x300By Nate Adams

Big birthdays have a way of getting our attention, as they should. Sometimes they even alarm us. Can my parents, or grandparents, really be 80? Am I really 50? Is my church really a hundred? Time really does seem to fly, whether you’re having fun or not.

And so maybe it snuck up on you that our home state turns 200 this year. One verse from the Illinois state song reminds us, “Eighteen-eighteen saw your founding, Illinois, Illinois.” Don’t worry, though, there’s still time to buy a gift. While the official seal of Illinois bears the date August 26, 1818, that was when the first state constitution was ratified. It wasn’t until December 3 that the U.S. government formally made Illinois the 21st state of the union.

And while the Illinois bicentennial may be receiving less fanfare than the national one back in 1976, this big birthday should still be getting our attention. There were only about 35,000 people in Illinois in 1818, but today there are at least 8.2 million who do not claim to have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. These two hundred years have brought a lot of people into our state mission field, and our Great Commission challenge as churches here is now bigger than ever.

That’s why we are embracing the Illinois bicentennial in our theme for this year’s IBSA Annual Meeting, “Pioneering Spirit – 200 and Counting.” As we now count two hundred years of statehood, we are also asking “what should we be counting?” and “what should really count?” today, if we are to have the same pioneering spirit as our Baptist forebears.

Beginning with last year’s annual meeting, IBSA has been challenging Illinois Baptist churches and leaders to join together and “count to 200” in four strategic, missional ways:

First, we have identified 200 places or people groups in Illinois where a new church is desperately needed. We are inviting churches to adopt one or more of those 200 by praying for them, or partnering with resources or volunteers, or actually sponsoring the plant as the mother church.

Second, we are praying for at least 200 churches that will seek to become more frequently baptizing churches, by setting annual baptism goals and equipping their members to intentionally have gospel conversations and participate in evangelistic events and mission trips. We are praying for churches that will set their sights on baptizing at least once a month, or more than their previous 3-year average.

Third, we are praying for at least 200 churches that will commit a specific percentage of their annual budgets to Cooperative Program missions, and then seek to increase that percentage annually toward 10% or more.

And finally, we are praying for at least 200 churches that will commit to intentional leadership development processes—not only for the pastor and current leaders, but also for tomorrow’s pastors, church planters, and missionaries.

You can learn more about these commitments, and register your church’s pledge to them, by visiting pioneeringspirit.org, or by calling John Carruthers at (217) 391-3110. There are currently 166 churches that have registered a commitment, and we are hoping to celebrate 200, in more ways than one, when we gather at First Baptist Maryville for the IBSA Annual Meeting.

Of course, some churches are fulfilling one or more of these challenges already. But for the overwhelming majority of IBSA churches, these challenges will be a major stretch. In fact, as our Annual Meeting theme suggests, moving beyond our status quo into these types of commitments will take a true “pioneering spirit.” It’s the kind of spirit that brought Baptist pioneers to Illinois more than 200 years ago.

Nate Adams is executive director of the Illinois Baptist State Association. Respond at IllinoisBaptist@IBSA.org.